June 22, 2011

Finding Definition

I was standing in the church nursery, someone else’s toddler on my hip.

I stood a moment, scanning the rest of the children in the room, making mental notes about what mothers had said about sippy cups and rice cookies and naps and runny noses. It was then I realized I was the only adult in the room. A moment later I saw, through the window that connected the infant and toddler nurseries, that all the other women – the mothers – had congregated in the infant room, chatting and laughing.

I stared at them a moment, my heart in my throat, fighting back tears. It had been a fight that morning preparing myself for nursery duty, wanting nothing more than to be able to bring my own child. To stand here, a child not mine on my hip, watching the mothers leaving me isolated and alone in a room of children… it was too much.

When I think back to that Sunday morning and the hot tears I shed in the church bathroom, I realize that none of those women were intentionally trying to hurt me. Often, when we are our most vulnerable (an infertile woman caring for the children of others in a very fertile church) we can interpret certain moments in a manner that highlights our grief. As a woman already feeling raw, empty and useless, I interpreted their gathering in a separate as a way of telling me how ‘other’, how disconnected and unworthy of friendship I was as the childless one.

I figured I was flying the ‘freak’ flag high and they could see it clearly. I saw myself as less… why wouldn’t they view me in the same light?
My friend, Tammy, recently shared some very candid thoughts with me:
More profoundly than how I defined myself, it was my perception of how others defined me as a woman and also how I was treated. While my husband was in college, the women in the church we attended viewed me as a "cute little newlywed", and though there were quite a few married women in my age group they didn't attempt to make friendships with me. It was always, "Just wait till you have children." And then you'll know. And then you could be my friend. And then you'll be an adult. Did they finish the sentence? No. But they might as well have.
Her words resonated with me deeply: as though stuck in some perpetual state of pre-adult, newlywed existence, I often felt like no one took me seriously. Infertility can be a lonely, confusing place, and that moment in the church nursery did nothing but reinforce that grief, intentional or not.

But Tammy went on,
When you look at yourself as, "Me, a child of God", that is how God wants us to see ourselves. Unfortunately, spouses pass away, children move out, your husband might step down from the ministry, etc. And when those things happen, if you've identified yourself with that, your sense of identity is removed. But if you identify yourself with Christ, He will never leave you nor forsake you, and He will help you fulfill your duties (wife, mother, pastor's wife, etc.). That session was very healing for me.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~ 1 John 3:1

There is one truth to who we are.

It is not the lies fed to us by the enemy.

It is not the perceived opinions of others.

It is this: “You are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

Through the grief and pain and hot tears in bathroom stalls, there is one truth that does not change. We are His. Our identity is rooted in Him and Him alone.
Thelma is wife, writer, and relentless joy-seeker: a Canadian girl learning to love God, her best friend and the joys and sorrows of their life as two. When she's not writing or putting her feet up, she likes to pretend she knows a thing or two about photography and dreams of running a marathon some day.

Author Website: Life as Two
A big thank you to Tammy for her candid and honest expression, and her willingness to be a part of this series.